Ubisoft want us all to live on the same planet, Maniaplanet! In their infinite wisdom they have come up with the idea of creating a genre of game that Sony has already explored in their Play, Create, Share range of games. The idea behind Maniaplanet is a series of games from popular genres that have one thing in common: the ability to edit the world in which you play.
Trackmania2 is the first of these games. It is a sequel of course, to a game that was held in high esteem by the PC racing community. The sequel isn’t that far removed and the core idea is the same; drive around tracks that you and your friends have created.
As a driving game, Trackmania2 is incredibly basic. There is a small collection of cars to choose from, but these are just skins and they don’t differ in specs or the way that they handle. That’s not to say that they handle poorly, in fact they control perfectly to suit this type of game. It’s easy to drift, which is the best way to get around corners quickly, and I never found it difficult to navigate the various courses. The game also supports a gamepad, which is definitely the best way to play it.
There are two types of gameplay: single player (or Solo as the game calls it) and multiplayer, which can be either local or online.
Solo play is straightforward, there are five sets of tracks, each indicated by a coloured flag, from white (easy) to Black (very hard). With the exception of Black, each flag has fifteen tracks to take part in. Only the first five tracks of each category are available to play from the start, with more tracks opening up as you progress. Most tracks are extremely short, lasting only 20 – 30 seconds, but some of the tracks require you to do five laps, which will last a few minutes. When you have chosen a track, you must the then choose a ghost car to go up against: Gold, Silver or Bronze. This will allow you to gauge your performance against the required time for the track. I always went up against the Gold ghost car, as that was the time I wanted to try and beat. It is normally a good idea to not try too hard on your first attempt, so that you can use it to familiarize yourself with the track, meaning that you stand a better chance against the computer next time round.
Each set of tracks (or flags) has a slightly different theme. For example, the white flag races are very typical and involve you driving from start to finish on a normal track. The next set of races are tracks that require you to drive along walls and through rough terrain. This varies things a bit, but it is hardly a massive challenge. As you earn medals, you will gain points and climb the world leaderboard. The game does a great job of displaying your performance, not only against the world but also against all the other players in your region.
Multiplayer however, is where you can get the most fun out of the game. Not only does it pit you against other players, but you’ll also be able to race on tracks created by the community.
The game’s level editor is a dream for those with a vivid imagination. It is very deep and will allow you to create some real impressive tracks. The tools are in depth and let you design every aspect of the tracks. You can start from scratch or use some of the built in templates. For me though, this is where the game became overwhelming. The tools are so complex that I had trouble even designing the simplest of tracks, I may not be the most creative of people, but I felt that I couldn’t even start to design my own track, due to the fact that I couldn’t wrap my head around the level editor!
But, if you are like me, you can leave all of that stuff to the experts and just get online and drive around some of the other player’s crazy inventions, which is far more enjoyable that creating them.
It is also worth remembering that, as of writing, Trackmania2 is barely out of its Beta mode and I am sure that as the game grows, so will if most of its functions. You will also start to see some incredible tracks as time goes on; much in the same way as LittleBigPlanet needed time for it to really shine.
If you are someone who enjoys their racing games with more structure, something like Gran Turismo or Burnout Paradise, then you may find that Trackmania2 will leave you cold. However, if you are fan of the first game, or fancy flexing your design muscles, then there is a lot of fun to be found here. Just make sure you know what sort of game you are getting yourself into.
Review copy provided by publisher.